More than half of 8- to 12-year olds are exposed to cyber-risks, such as cyberbullying, video game addiction, offline meetings, and online sexual behaviours, according to a report by the Digital Institute.

“The same report estimates that over 720 million children between the ages of 8 and 12 will be online by 2020,” says Dr Marlena Kruger, technology addiction and integrated health and wellness expert.

“The numbers show that technology is part and parcel of modern life, whether it is good or bad for our children. The real challenge is when our older children are equipped with digital fluency skills to limit the harmful effects.”

According to Kruger there is tremendous pressure on educators and parents to prepare our children for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This does not only include teaching them the basics of technology usage, but also how to use it responsibly and making the right and wise choices daily, so that the negative impact on their health and well-being will be limited.  

She is on a mission to help empower every child in South Africa with digital fluency and – intelligence, but linked to the right ages. Therefore, it is important not to give smart phones and tablets, linked to the internet, in the hands of 8- to 12-year olds, who are not supposed to have any social media profiles and exposure to all the cyber-risks and for which their brains and bodies are not fully developed to take neither the responsibilities nor the consequences of their behaviours in an online environment.   

With this in mind, Kruger founded the TechnoLife Wise Foundation to teach kids responsible digital behaviours so that they can develop into whole, healthy human beings and thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The TechnoLife Wise Foundation has a unique, interactive approach to teaching children (and their parents) the balance between technology and real life: We do this by teaching children digital fluency skills (having the skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information is increasingly through digital technologies like internet platforms, social media, and mobile devices). We use educational theatre to empower our youth with critical thinking skills to use technology effectively and responsibly. Critical thinking is one of the top ten essential skills to have in the new world of work.

 “Actors, puppets, books, songs and interactive activities are put to creative use to teach learners to manage their digital identity, privacy, security and footprint as well as fostering human values and attitudes.”  

Kruger was recently named Business Woman of the Year 2019 by Global Women of Purpose, an international forum for business women from all walks of life. She is also one of the finalists in the Education category of the sixth Woman of Stature Awards. The winners of this competition will be announced in March next year.

She was also one of speakers at the next TEDxJohannesburg Women 2019 event that took place on 5 December 2019 in Rosebank. Her topic was “5G and the human-technology tipping point”.

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